Here’s how the arguments go: I say how unregulated advertisement aimed directly at kids is contributing to childhood obesity rates among other societal ills. You remind me I’m the parent, I have the right to tell my kid “no,” grow up, be the adult, how about a little personal responsibilty?
Here’s the deal: I do say “no,” all the time. Almost every time, truly. I’ve had a strict “no characters — ever” policy, just so there were no gray areas. I even pass over the bargain clothes if they are emblazoned with Hannah Montana or Raven or Bratz or whatever. My seven-year-old knows this and mostly doesn’t bother asking anymore.
Those times where there is a request for Sponge Bob this or Princess Whoever that, I set out the invisible lectern and launch into my diatribe on how this particular cereal is displayed just where they’ll see it and the reason Johnny Depp is on a candy wrapper is so they’ll want me to buy it. If the response is a whine, I go ahead and point out that Company X wants them to whine so I’ll give up and I usually finish with “Your whining has strengthened my resolve! The answer now is especially ‘no’!”
But damn. My resolve is growing weak. I’m really tired of it all. And I’m not convinced that all the no’s now will result in them making better choices later. The thing is, personal responsibility/no regulation folks, parents are up against a lot. I’m pretty sure we’re not winning either.
The Federal Trade Commission recognizes this too. They commissioned a study and found that the food industry spends $1.6 billion on all kinds of marketing to kids — not just TV commericals, but those maddening grocery store displays and online brand interaction games and contests, school donations and more.
Here’s some of what the study found (from AP via Salon):
The commission studied spending directed at children ages 2-17.
Spending on soda marketing came to $492 million, with the vast majority
of that spending directed toward adolescents. Fast food restaurants
reported spending close to $294 million, which was divided about evenly
between children and adolescents. For cereals, companies spent about
$237 million, with the vast majority of that targeted to children under
Also, the Internet ads are completely unregulated and may differ from what is on TV and if you don’t know exactly what you’re kid is seeing online, well, then, the marketers have won. They always win.
Kathryn Montgomery, a communications professor at American University, said “Parents who are concerned abut their children’s eating habits have to
understand that you can’t just look at what’s happening on television.
That’s not the way it is anymore. It’s a pervasive marketing
Anyway, the FTC made some recommendations based on the report, including calling on marketers to use their money and ingenuity on promoting healthful foods and excercise in the same way they promote the other crap.
Personally, and here’s where the initial argument begins again, I’d like to see tighter regulation of advertisements directed at children and strict limits on it as well. Un-American, I know. But my personal responsibility only gets me (and my kids) so far. You too, you know, you too.
How are you teaching your little ones to be media savvy? How do you keep from giving up?